Whisky Sojourner - Travel and Events
An abiding theme of MyWhiskyJourneys is the link between whisky and travel and in Whisky Sojourner we provide some insights into whisky tourism in terms of both whisky-related places and events.
However, before setting off on your whisky travels it is important that you have with you one essential piece of equipment and that is the right glass from which to enjoy your whiskies. We believe the Cradle Glass, developed particularly with Tasmanian whiskies in mind, but ideal for any fine whisky, is the unique solution for such occasions.
Please click here to find out more about the Cradle Glass, including how to buy one.
And to accompany you on your travels, why not have with you the latest issue of Whisky Magazine to demonstrate even further your credentials as a serious whisky sojourner!
Some 30 years ago, MWJ Director Philip Morrice had the novel idea that the world needed yet another consumer magazine – but one devoted exclusively to whisky. With a couple of friends, he pulled together a magazine design team, a few potential contributors (not many people were writing about whisky in those days) and the potential of financial backing through advertising from what was then United Distillers. It didn’t happen because the latter got cold feet and the project was duly consigned to the “bright ideas that didn’t go anywhere” basket. Philip was then contributing regularly on whisky matters to Harper’s Wine & Spirit Gazette and Decanter Magazine. The former was really for the trade and the latter was much more aimed at wine lovers than whisky drinkers. Clearly, he was ahead of his time.
Philip greeted the arrival of Whisky Magazine many years later in 1999 with a mixture of joy and wistfulness. It has been a constant reference and source of information ever since and at different times he has been a contributor, a subscriber and an advertiser. It is not perfect, thank goodness, but it is an amazing source of good writing, sound advice and informed insight into everything associated with the world of whisky and for that reason it has become an indispensable tool for anyone desiring to be in the least bit knowledgeable about this most celebrated of drinks.
Regrettably the magazine no longer reviews whisky books and we would like to see more about the history of whisky in its many aspects. However, these are marginal criticisms far outweighed by the many elements between its covers which makes it such good value. We only hope that the industry will continue to support it but where are Diageo and Chivas when you need them!
There is a great seasonal subscription offer available at
Once you have that sorted out take a look at Tasmania Revisited and Whisky Places below.
My usual twice-yearly visits to Tasmania to see friends and to reacquaint myself with developments in the Tasmanian whisky distilling industry were rudely interrupted by the advent of COVID-19 which inflicted on the island many constraints and restrictions and made such visits totally impossible for a period of nearly a year. However, plans formulated in November 2020 to travel in mid-March 2021 were fulfilled, thankfully because of Australia’s skill and determination to defeat the pandemic and nowhere was this more evident than in Tasmania itself.
How had the industry, almost a subset of the tourism sector, fared without the usual flow of international and interstate visitors? Would I find distilleries on the brink of closure or even completely shut down? Would I find a dispirited – forgive the pun – mob of distillers waiting on calls from their mortgagors, or reduced simply to drinking their own stock? Would the air of hope and inspiration, such an abiding feature of the industry, have been replaced by an atmosphere of despair and anger? The quick answer to all of those questions is a resounding ‘no’ and although some of the distilleries are clearly doing it tough, I found resilience, renewal and resolution to be around in plenty and an industry ready to go forward on the next wave of expansion.
It was impossible to visit all of the distilleries in the 10 days my partners and I had in the state and so I tended to omit those which I had gone to on my previous visit (in January 2020 just before COVID-19 was visited on us), and concentrated on the smaller, newer and therefore more vulnerable enterprises to see how they were managing and, I hope, in my own small way to give them some encouragement, for I had brought with me four fellow Tasmanian whisky afficionados (three from Sydney and one from Hobart) to help me in my task. This is what we found.
After a challenging day at the appropriately named Lost Farm – or should it be Lost Ball - golf course and a splendid dinner at The Bunker restaurant in the friendly seaside town of Bridport, we opened the proceedings at what is surely the pioneer of northern Tasmanian boutique distilleries – the much-loved Fannys Bay. There we found Mathew Cooper, distiller, co-owner with his wife Julie, and whisky raconteur, in good spirits and clearly feeling that the corner was on the point of being rounded. It was a splendid morning - bright sunshine, sea sparkling and birds chirping. This was my fourth visit to Fannys Bay and it was good to see the progress that has been made by the Coopers since my last visit to Fannys Bay more than two years ago. The introduction of a snug bar cum tasting room was a clear improvement for visitors, particularly of the type who want to get into serious whisky conversation. But there are other innovations including experimentation with different strains of barley from the UK and New Zealand, the latter slightly peated, and it will be interesting to see how well that turns out.
Mathew has also moved into larger barrels, the early years having been restricted to 20 L casks. We had the privilege of buying the very first 20 L cask released to private friends of Fannys Bay which is now available in the MyWhiskyJourneys special bottling series (ex-Port Special Bottling No. 3). We are now looking forward to the product of a further 2+ years of maturation in the refilled barrel. We took away with us a generous sample which Matthew had drawn for the occasion and in a subsequent evening tasted it before dinner and proclaimed, unanimously, that it was definitely ready for bottling which is now at hand.
Mathew does a taste and talk cellar door experience, providing you book in advance, for a modest $10 per head. It must be the best value for money in Tasmanian whisky-land and if you leave without having bought a bottle you would need to ask yourself why you bothered making the journey!
From there, it was a pleasant drive to Tamar Valley Distillery where we received an equally warm welcome from Paul Herron and one of his triplet sons who are all, in different ways, involved in the Hillwood whisky
project, which takes its name from the nearby village, about 20 minutes’ drive from Launceston. Like Fannys Bay, Hillwood follows the traditional Scottish pot still process in order to produce an unpeated single malt whisky, rather reminiscent of Speyside.
We had some months previously taken delivery of 38 bottles matured in our Hillwood Barrel No 11, a Tasmanian Pinot Noir cask, which we had, at the pre-bottling tasting stage, found most palatable and, indeed, quite moving as being the first whisky we had ever bottled from Pinot Noir wood. We were privileged to have the first – and perhaps the only - privately bottled Hillwood cask.
The Herron’s mill on-site, create the mash, then go through the fermentation and distillation processes, eventually to mature and bottle their product all on their Hillwood property. Is their secret the high-quality yeast used in a longer than normal fermentation to produce the distinctive Hillwood taste? Or is it the water drawn from natural glacial springs which are known never to have dried up – at least in the living memory of the locals. Whatever it is, a visit to Hillwood is always a delight and a chat with Paul, the master distiller, always gives fresh insight into the Hillwood phenomenon.
From Hillwood it was a 30-minute drive to Grindelwald where we received the usual courtesies from Justin Turner the man behind the appropriately named Turner Stillhouse, which promises to become a major player in the northern Tasmanian distilling scene, having already made its mark with its Three Cuts gin brand. Turner Stillhouse boasts the added advantage of being right next door to the Tamar Ridge winery where we partook of a light but tasty lunch – much needed after sampling some of the Turner product, although whisky is still a work in progress. In the meantime, Turner has introduced a barrel purchase program whereby those too impatient to await the distillery releases can acquire a barrel of single malt, rye or corn whisky, all of which is promised to be of “super premium” quality. Judging by the equipment being installed and the care applied to every aspect of the operation, this is not an idle boast.
Justin brings a touch of American “can do” to the operation hailing, as he does, from Northern California where his family were in wine making and spirit distilling, tempered with a spell in the New York financial bearpit. With a Tasmanian wife and a local craftsman as the alternative distiller, this is a promising combination of the near and the far. Hopefully, the success being enjoyed by the gin will be repeated once the whisky starts to flow.
Whilst at Grindelwald we had hoped to visit the neighbouring recently re-launched Cradle Mountain distillery but unfortunately our good friend Joe Lahra was out of the country. It is of great credit to the Larha family that the Cradle Mountain brand has been re-launched and a spanking new distillery built with that name. A nice touch is the way that Brian Poke, who died recently and who was a pioneer of distilling in Tasmania, is acknowledged for the role he played in the original distillery and in its reincarnation. The Cradle Mountain website – www.cradlemountainwhisky.com – gives some interesting insights into the rebirth of whisky distilling on the island, of which not many people are aware. We have some of the early Cradle Mountain expressions, which are now rarely seen, and plan to add some of the bottlings from the casks sent to Scotland all those years ago
We also missed visiting Corra Linn distillery as John Wielstra was also away from base. We always enjoy visiting Corra Linn as it is such a place of innovation and enthusiasm. And, of course, the source of one of our own label whiskies which have brought us much pleasure.
Part Two will follow with the release of the next Newsletter.
Bruny Island House of Whisky, Tasmania
North Bruny is where you will find the Bruny Island House of Whisky, which has become the home of the Trapper’s Hut single cask, single malt whisky and, of course, the best chance of tasting these limited releases. There is no distillery – yet - on Bruny, but Trapper’s Hut is one of Tasmania’s four independent bottlers.
Bruny Island House of Whisky boasts the largest collection of purely Tasmanian whiskies on tasting anywhere in the world, with currently 76 expressions to choose from. It is certainly worth the ferry ride for any whisky - or nature - lover.
It takes about an hour to get from Hobart to the port of Kettering to catch the ferry to Bruny Island. You can either take your car on the ferry or take the bus and go as a foot passenger, but you will need transportation on the island to get to the House of Whisky. Check the ferry schedule in advance:
Bruny Island is sparsely inhabited with only about 600 permanent residents. Although it seems close to the main island of Tasmania, Bruny Island is deceptively large and you do need a vehicle to get round it.
This is a magical place that has been left largely untouched. It is great for camping, beach picnics and wildlife watching. You could make this a day trip, but there is so much that this island has to offer. There is good quality overnight accommodation and exploring the North and South of the Island could take days. Check out
In both 2015 and 2017, the Bruny Island House of Whisky won the THA and TasTAFE Award for Excellence for “The Best Specialty Bar in Tasmania”. It is the only whisky bar in the world to hold such an extensive range of purely Tasmanian whiskies. And there is knowledgeable staff to guide you through the experience, either by the flight or by a tailor-made selection, in front of a roaring fire in winter with stunning water views.
360 Lennon Rd
North Bruny Island TAS 7150
Phone: +61 3 6260 6344
Joadja Historic Town and Distillery, Southern Highlands, New South Wales, Australia
About an hour and a half’s drive from Sydney into the glorious Southern Highlands but hidden away from the usual tourist tracks is a most extraordinary relic of Australia’s industrial history into which has been inserted a delightful malt whisky distillery of craft proportions. Whether you are a history buff or a whisky lover, this is a must go to destination, and if you are both, it is a day in heaven.
Joadja was the company town of the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company. Thousands of shale oil miners were attracted there from Scotland to help develop and work the kerosene shale of Joadja Creek. This was in the 1870’s when the Temperance Movement in Scotland was in full swing under the influence of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Temperance Society, and it would seem that that particular aspect of Presbyterian life went with them to this remote part of Australia. On the other hand, some of them may have been intent on escaping the scourge of the Band of Hope and brought with them – as they did in large numbers to New Zealand – certain illicit distilling skills! And so it seems that, as in Scotland, the wrath of God and the balm of moonshine cohabited quite sublimely in those distant Highlands.
It is against this fascinating historical background that Valero Jimenez and his wife Elisa, both of whom migrated from Spain as children with their respective parents, and subsequently became owners of the now deserted but well-preserved town of Joadja, have developed a pristine small-scale Highland malt distillery. And the product, if my sampling of their First Release is anything to go by, is a characterful tribute to Joadja’s Scottish heritage.
The Spanish connection, however, is more than incidental and this is where things really get exciting. Some of the finest malt whiskies in Scotland owe a great deal to the skills of the Spanish sherry makers. The UK has always been an important market for Sherry – and in the old days a lot of cheap versions came from Australia. However, when the barrels came from Jerez, the true home of Sherry, the wily Scottish distillers would buy up the used barrels. And, of course, UK regulations require that whisky is matured for at least three years in oak. And so the Scots would fill them with maturing spirit, which would eventually become whisky. Whether by accident of by intent the longer the whisky remained in the used Sherry barrels, the more the Sherry influenced the maturing spirit invariably with beneficial results.
The Jimenez have been laudably enterprising by using family connections in Spain (Elisa was born in Jerez) to access ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenez butts of the kind traditionally used by the Scottish distillers in which to mature their Australian whisky. And the result is bliss in a bottle!
Whisky takes time to mature and the Joadja still is of modest proportions and so the Jimenez enterprise has introduced Joadja Wee Heavy Scottish Ale to provide sustenance to visitors between releases of their whisky. There are other products of the Joadja still too, but it is the whisky, which makes this place stand out.
A Joadja visit – a full day’s excursion from Sydney and a delightful escape from the endless coffee bars and expensive shops in Bowral – is a truly memorable experience. Nothing flash, just a genuine harking back to a unique piece of Australian industrial history, combined with first hand exposure to a well thought out small scale distillery producing a seriously good whisky. On top of that comes a simple café/restaurant serving wholesome Spanish influenced home-cooked food in sensible portions. My visit was in mid winter, memorable for the tractor driven visitor experience around the extensive Joadja encampment and the friendliness of the Jimenez hosts, only too pleased to show off the results of their efforts in the still house, where production first started in 2014.
This enterprise deserves to prosper but just check out the website for visiting times as tours happen only about once a month, although private tours by groups of 25 or more can be arranged, with or without catering. And always call in advance to book and confirm. I shall return.
1760 Joadja Road,
JOADJA, NSW, 2575
Phone: +61 4878 5129
Website: www.joadjadistillery.com.au and www.joadjatown.com.au
Joadja Heritage Tour and Distillery Visit, Southern Highlands, New South Wales, Australia
These fully guided tours run for approximately 90 minutes and are conducted on purpose-built people movers (trailers). The visit takes in over 10 ruins/sites with on-foot inspection of some of the major abandoned structures. The tour starts and ends alongside Joadja malt whisky distillery, which can be visited before or after the tour or independently of the tour. The facilities are open roughly one Sunday each month.
Tel: (02) 4878 5129